You Need Spoon Cake This Summer

You Need Spoon Cake This Summer

The best cake topping is whipped cream. It’s light, delicate, mildly sweet, and works with everything from angel food cake to double chocolate mousse. Glazes, frostings, and cream cheese icings are all great, but whipped cream is the greatest. It highlights the star components while adding richness and moisture, without detracting with overwhelming, cloying sweetness.

Sadly, gravity keeps this fluffy cake topping from being used as much as I’d like. It’s too structurally weak to support thick cake layers without adding stabilizers, and it has a bad habit of turning back into its original state–liquid. But instead of admitting defeat, let’s rebrand these cake challenges as cake opportunities. Instead of building skyward, we’ll build “down.” Instead of weeping over weeping whipped cream, let’s count on it! This is the year of Spoon Cake Summer.

A spoon cake is simply a cake you serve with a spoon. Not just because you can, but because you have to. It takes the best parts of Southern spoon bread, tres leches cake, and a classic English trifle to make an impressive creamy dessert without the any anxiety over it collapsing. It’s essentially two layers of cake with a thick stratum of whipped cream sandwiched in between. It’s then decorated with still more whipped cream and whatever the heck you want–summer fruits, chocolate chips, cocoa powder, Reese’s Pieces, olive oil (I know you’re out there), edible flowers–everything tastes good with whipped cream. Another benefit is that it’s baked in a 13 x 9-inch cake dish, then assembled in the same dish. This reduces clean up, makes it easy to transport, and allows you to use all the whipped cream you want without fear.

How to make a spoon cake

First, make a sheet cake in a 13 x 9-inch cake dish that’s at least two inches deep, but the deeper the better. You can use nearly any type of cake recipe; a standard yellow cake or chocolate cake is perfectly fine, but it should be airy enough to soak up excess whipped cream liquid (something dense like a brownie would not work as well). There should be enough batter to fill the dish just about halfway. This height will allow you to split the cake into two layers but also allow room in the dish for the whipped cream later.

Once your cake has cooled, invert it onto a wire rack. Split it horizontally into two even sheets of cake. If you’re not comfortable using a serrated bread knife, you can use a piece of floss to gently split the cake. Put the bottom layer (the butt) back into the baking dish, cut side up. You’ll know you did it right if it fits perfectly.

Start whipping a generous amount of whipping cream with sugar to taste. A quart of whipping cream should suffice; you want enough for a solid half-inch layer of cream in the middle, with extra for the top. Stop once you have achieved medium peak stage. Medium peaks will deflate just enough to moisten the cake overnight without completely disappearing. Spread half of the sweetened whipped cream evenly onto the bottom layer of cake. At this stage, you can press some sliced fruit into the cream. Flip the top layer onto the whipped cream, cut side down, and give it a gentle press to ensure good contact. Spread the rest of the whipped cream onto the top of the cake. Add some swoops for a decorative pattern or leave it smooth. Cover and let rest in the fridge for six hours or overnight.

The rest time will allow the whipped cream to partially moisten the cake layers, which act like a sponge, allowing the whipped cream to become a little dryer, and hold its shape when spooned. For an optional decoration, just before serving, top with more sliced fruit, sprinkles, or other complementary garnish. Grab a big ol’ spoon and consider yourself ready for summer.

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